The Xylophone Orchestra’s «Stora Blå» (Big Blue) is a music-pedagogy project at a day center for people with cognitive disabilities in Stockholm, guided by Christer Bothén. Bothén is a member of the Spjärnsvallet group and in recent years associated with Mats Gustafsson Fire Orchestra and NU Ensemble, but also a scholar of Sufi musical traditions centered on music therapy. He chose to work with these amateurl musicians with wooden xylophones due to the instruments immediate physicality and its many options of playing complicated, cross-rhythms that feature each of the players own strengths. He composed the key rhythmic and melodic elements but the music is a result of continuous working process of Bothén and eight musicians.
The work with the Xylophone Orchestra provided Bothén, as well as anyone who saw this orchestra perform live at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, with the dance group På Egna Ben (On Our Own Legs) or at the Stockholm Water Festival, a renewed sense of the healing power of music. Xylofonorkestern music relies loosely on polyrhythmic West-African percussive traditions that emphasize simple call-and-response modes, but with surprising twists that owe much to Western classical and pop music. Bothén wisely arranged the music in a manner that highlights the natural talents of the players as joyful, gentle singing, innocent inventiveness, sensitive attention to rhythmic detail and an infectious enthusiasm, adding only light touches that solidify the dramatic narrative of the extended suites.
A beautiful work of love and joy, full of moving music that emanates from the talents of the musicians rather than their limitations.
Christer Bothén (tenor xylophone, p, comp, teacher); Jennie Lind (tenor xylophone, p, v); Manfred Lindqvist (tenor xylophone); Caroline Tangus (bass xylophone, vib); Tomas Fogelholm (bass xylophone, v), Santiago Angulo Rubio (bass xylophone), Emiel Sietsema (perc); Daniel Söderblom (perc); Anders Jalmeus (perc, v)